“I know this sounds ridiculous, but recently I’ve been fascinated by the sound the wind makes when it goes through trees,” says Jonathan Anderson in a deep drawl, surprisingly sonorous given the sweet mien his baby-blue eyes and boy-band hair suggest. The Irish designer and I are in the middle of a Zoom call at 7:30 am UK time, talking about trees. “It’s the first time I worked out that it’s actually a collective of leaves making the sound, and I thought ‘What would it be like if I were to break that down in music for a show, to take a few sounds we’re familiar with and dissect them into something atmospheric, you know what I mean?’” The Covid-19 pandemic, while responsible for many horrors, has also provided some unexpected blessings. For the first time in seven years, Anderson is not on the Eurostar headed on his weekly journey from his Victorian home in east London to his Place Saint-Sulpice office in Paris. Instead, like almost everyone in the world, Anderson has spent much of his time in lockdown taking a magnifying glass to his surroundings.
At the age of 36, Anderson is the widely feted creative director of his eponymous label JW Anderson, and of Loewe, the LVMH-owned Spanish heritage brand famed for its supple leather accessories. Few designers helm two brands any longer—the Nineties saw a wave, including John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and the late Karl Lagerfeld—and even fewer manage to sustain the momentum of both. Instead, Anderson’s accolades continue to stack up year after year. In 2015, he won the top prize in both men’s and womenswear categories at the British Fashion Council awards, an unprecedented feat. He is also a permanent jury member for the LVMH Prize and was named a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum by former UK prime minister Theresa May in 2019. To call him an overachiever would be an understatement; he once even described his own ambition as “Machiavellian”. “Of course there’s an obsession to be the best; otherwise, why bother?” he shrugs.
What struck me repeatedly throughout our conversation was Anderson’s hyper-awareness both of his own character and the cultural zeitgeist, forever using his stage to draw attention to the many collaborators and craftsmen behind his work. “It’s imperative after [this pandemic] that we start to better understand how we make things and who makes them and not take them for granted,” he says. “When we know the story of a product that’s made well, we’ll buy things that will last longer.”
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